It’s Day 4 since the diarrhoea started. The medicine is working and I’m definitely getting better. Although it’s going frustratingly slowly and between the diarrhoea and the side effects of the antibiotics, I feel pretty crap! The last three days have been spent in my apartment just going between the bed and the toilet or sitting on the balcony staring out to the sky and sea. I’m starting to go a little bit “loco”.
The last two nights I managed to get out of the apartment for a bit… But the furthest I can go and still be within safe sprinting distance of a decent toilet is Cafe Bim Bom at the end of my street on the next block. Despite the name “cafe”, it doesn’t actually serve any coffee, only beer, rum and soft drinks. I saw a whole lot of people sucking on these little 200 ml tetra packs and I thought, “How cute, they’re all drinking juice”…. Turns out it’s rum. The other side of the road is Hustler Central and Cafe Bim Bom is where they come to drink. Across the road on the Malecon Sea Wall (the world’s longest sofa) again, is the same scene but feels slightly less desperate.
Hustler Central by day with the Hotel Nacional in the background… It’s a vastly different scene by night.
The Malecon by night…
I spent the last two nights sitting in Cafe Bim Bom drinking water and chatting. As a single non-Cuban sitting there by yourself, you’re pretty much a freak magnet. The scene there runs the range from low-life drunk and desperate to freak show (we’re talking face tattoos) to regular decent people who are just doing a job to support their families. Some of them have their sales pitch firmly set on “repeat” while others, when they realise you’re not interested in their goods and services, will drop the act and chat about their families and the sorry state of the economy. Some have day jobs… I met one person who worked in a factory making sanitary pads for women by day and hustler by night… I thought that was pretty funny! Others don’t have any other job and don’t see the point. “If I doctor only makes 40 CUC in a month, what’s the point in working?” It’s really sad that a government degrades it’s people to the point where being a street hustler is a viable career option.
Anyway, hanging out in Cafe Bim Bom by night can best be described as a “character building exercise”
Meanwhile, Lisi keeps trucking in loads of fried rice, beans, lentils, pork and chicken. She doesn’t want to accept the reality of my situation that as nice as her food is, I just can’t eat it in my current situation. I tried to explain in my bad Spanish that I come from a long line of eaters so if I turn down food it’s because there’s something seriously wrong. I tried to educate her on the “less is more” approach so for at least two meals she made soup… But somehow she still managed to cram half an animal and a sack of potatoes and carrots in each bowl. The taste is very good… It’s mum’s classic hearty home cooking… Just not appropriate at this time.
I think she is a genuinely very kind person but a large part of it is self serving. It’s her business and I’m her little cash cow. I’ve been agonising over what to do about this situation. I hate wasting food but I just can’t eat it. It’s too much and too heavy. Last night I ate her fried rice, beans and chicken and was on the toilet all night. This morning it was fried rice with lentils, fried pork and fried onions. I know she has a family to support and people are very poor here so I thought about giving her money NOT to bring me food, but that would just be too rude.
Cubans generally are into really ginormous portions of food. Even when you go to a restaurant, one serving of food in any other part of the world would easily serve a family of four. I guess it comes from being poor and not knowing if and when you’ll get the next meal. One person told me that because most Cubans can’t afford to go to a restaurant very often, that when they do go they want to feel that they’re getting their money’s worth. I would have thought half the portion at half the price would be the way to go because it’s impossible to eat that much food comfortably in one sitting.
So anyway, regarding Lisi, I decided that the best solution in order to maintain “face” with her, support her family, preserve my sanity and stomach, was to simply accept the food, pay her the money, toss it in the bin, return the plates an hour later with a big smile on my face and say, “Delicioso!!!!! Estoy llenisimo!!!” I hang my head in shame that I’m doing it and it’s not something I would do under normal circumstances but… desperate times call for desperate measures. I just need to find somewhere to dump the evidence because the lady who cleans the apartment also lives in the building and I’m sure she’ll blab to Lisi if she discovers it.